Show Review: Converge, Nails & Kvelertak @ The Echoplex (Los Angeles, CA)

 

Hardcore shows are, by and large, not my bag.  Oddly enough I’ve been into hardcore longer than I have death metal, but I’ve never really “got” the whole FSU mentality 100%; the music has always been what’s drawn me, not the scene.  Regardless, Converge are one of my favorite bands on the planet and I would never miss an opportunity to catch their unrelenting live show in the flesh.

This tour package was the coup de grace for me; Converge need no introduction, Nails are an unstoppable avalanche of grind/hardcore, and Kvelertak are by far one of the most fun and exciting bands to emerge from the underground in recent years.  So it was with much excitement that I grabbed my flask and headed down to The Echoplex.

We arrived a bit late, so I only caught the last half of the opening band, Dangers‘ set.  On the whole I was impressed.  Their sound evokes a lot of what I’ve always loved about post hardcore: in your face vehemence, societal backlash, and unpredictable riffs and song structures.  Their mix was pretty beefy as well, which made their set all the more powerful.  I had a hard time “figuring out” their singer though.  He was either a raging douchebag or so passionate about his message that the anger and disgust was palpable.  Either way, his stage banter was a bit off-putting, but that did not detract from the fact that the band as a whole delivered a pretty solid performance.

Once they were done I waited with childish anticipation for the band I was most excited to see, Kvelertak.  These off-the-wall Norwegians are one of the most fun and badass bands on the planet right now and I was beyond stoked to finally catch their highly-revered live show.

Within seconds I knew their performance had not been overrated.  They opened with the crushing 2010 album opener “Ulvetid” and immediately had the place in fits.  Their contagious brand of black n’ roll is utterly MASSIVE live.  The three guitars assaulted my ear holes with the beautiful din that only Kverlertak can produce.  Most exciting was that the band have just as much fun playing these songs as the fans do listening to them.  Each one is its own anthem, daring you not to get your drunk ass moving!  They killed it; absolutely fucking killed it!  It was one of the best live performances I’ve seen all year.  I only wish that the crowd would have been more into it; but that’s what you get with a young European band whose amount of US live performances can (almost) be counted on one hand.  No matter, by this time next year, after they release their sophomore album, I guarantee you these guys will be batting American fans off with their fists.

I’ve lived in SoCal for almost 8 years now and I had never gotten the chance to see Nails live before (odd because they play local shows almost weekly) so I couldn’t wait to catch these madmen either.  They got up on stage, turned their amps up to 11 and belted out some of the sludgiest, nastiest, heaviest noise of the night.  Their unique mix of grind and old school hardcore had the pit in a fury.  Unfortunately for me, being that I can’t stand nor understand “hardcore dancing”, the pit was a battleground for me (my girlfriend got fucking horse kicked for chrissake!).  NBD.  It’s all part of the atmosphere and experience, and even though I wish the pit would’ve been more of a circle-pit-run-into-each-other-and-shove-until-your-arms-fall-off, I still enjoyed it thoroughly.  I couldn’t take my eyes off the stage as Todd Jones and Co. eviscerated the entire venue.  The highlight for me was by far their sludge-tastic hit “Suffering Soul”, which nearly ruined my night as I ventured ever-so-cautiously into the pit.

Fuck.  I felt like I was hit by a train when they were done, and I’d gladly step back onto those tracks and take the beating all over again given the chance.

I’ve never been a big fan of Torche, and it’s no disrespect to the band, but I missed their set.  Instead, I was outside drinking and talking and meeting Kvelertak (which made my fucking night; such genuine and humble dudes) and to be completely honest, I didn’t lose any sleep over it.  Mostly because I couldn’t hide my anticipation for arguably the greatest hardcore band off all time, motherfucking CONVERGE!

Last time I saw Converge was during their trek opening for Dethklok and Mastodon 2 years ago.  Their set was painfully short that night so I was beyond ecstatic to get to finally see them headline again.

They belted out a veritable “best of” the whole night, touching on classics from Jane Doe (“The Broken Vow”, “Fault and Fracture”) to their newest material on All We Love We Leave Behind.  Honestly, as amazing as it is to see them play the older stuff (“Last Light” positively KILLED), I was most blown away by their newer material.  They played through the title track from All We Love… with such grace and power; it felt genuinely emotional to them and their energy permeated throughout the crowd.

It’s so rare you to see a hardcore/metalcore/grind/whateverthefuckyouwannacallit band that plays with such precision and energy.  Guitarist Kurt Ballou, despite his manic stage performance, never missed a beat, his left hand flying around the fret board in such a fury it was almost impossible to truly glimpse.  Drummer Ben Koller absolutely nailed each and ever song; if he ever screwed up I didn’t notice, and his energy never faltered.  And there’s Jacob Bannon, whose vocal performance blew me away.  He was on point with everything, and as usual, his stage presence is undeniable, mingling with thew crowd, crowd surfing, jumping around, it’s a true dedication and passion for his art, and something that I truly admire.

All in all this was by far one of the best shows I’ve been to all year.  It’s rare that a bill this awesome comes along, with so many amazing and unique bands spanning the spectrum of genres.  The energy was palpable, the atmosphere kinetic, and the venue a perfect fit.  It’s shows like this that make me proud to be an extreme music fan, and remind me why I love this stuff in the first place.

If you haven’t had the priveledge yet, the tour is still going on for another week.  You can get the remaining tour dates here.

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